Interview: Lewis Black

Interview Lewis Black

Lewis Black can be seen Wednesday’s on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, hosted by Jon Stewart, and on various other appearances (like Tough Crowd, also on Comedy Central, and on Conan O Brian). A funny comedian and a damn good American to boot, I tried to get Lewis riled up to the point of enragement. After all, the name of his new album is, “Rules of Enragement,” and since people hate it when you incorrectly say their name or something they’re working on, so began my interview.

So you’ve got an album out now, “Rules of Engagement”…
Rules of Enragement!!

Sorry.
It’s okay.

On the album you make a really interesting point on track nine, “Who’s Fucking Who?” about businesses and our government. Why doesn’t America care? Why aren’t we outraged, boycotting the companies and banishing the politicians behind them?
What do you do? There’s no real outlook to pursue. The government didn’t follow up on it. The Democratic Party didn’t make it a big enough issue. The Republicans just kinda buried it, and going in the dishwater, it’s the American judicial system. (sighs) Where great issues go to die.

You went to Yale for college?
Yale, and for drama. I went to UNC for college and Yale for playwriting.

Did you ever stumble across Skull and Bones? 
No, because you avoid that kind of shit. They keep it very secret, and there’s a lot of money and powerful people involved, so they want to keep whatever it is that they do in private. Which is probably just touching each other.

I hear that the ‘tomb’ (a large, ivy covered building without any windows) has a full time whore to make sure everyone is happy. How come nobody talks about this ? Major media doesn’t really dig into that as much, even though it seems like a tasty news item to rub in people’s faces. [Especially when rituals involve wrestling other new members in mud and masturbating in a coffin? And fuck, they even have their own private helicopter pad on the roof of the building. Aside from the 2000 film, The Skulls, you’d think America would care that their president belongs to a secret society of Puritan heritage. The American group is a second chapter that reportedly contains Nazi memorabilia like Hitler’s silverware, and their chapter’s original name is ‘The Brotherhood of Death’. ]
I think they would care, but… they don’t care now, when the president talks to them and his face doesn’t match the words that he’s saying.

So you grew up in Maryland, home of… Francis Scott Key (star spangled banner)? Is that Maryland’s claim to fame?
Yeah. And crabs.

How is life in Maryland, growing up full of crabs?
You’re born and raised in the suburbs, which is like being born and raised nowhere. It prepares you, basically, for space travel.

What’s going on in Maryland with the slot machines?
Oh, that they’re trying to get them in there? They’ve been trying to do that forever. It’s because Delaware’s got ’em and Jersey’s got ’em. It’s because they’re trying to save the racetracks. Those haven’t really been big sellers, so Maryland is trying to get the slot machines in to keep people interested.

Indian casino’s, at least in San Diego, are plentiful and cater to the older generation. Are you for or against legalized gambling?
I just think… it’s just insane to me. It’s like, “let’s create another problem.” I’d be for it if I knew the money was really going somewhere. The amount of money that’s gambled, and the amount that ends up in the right hands after it’s all said and done, it just doesn’t make sense.

Are you referring to the slot/racetrack type, or the Lotto machines that State’s have set up?
Both. We had a state lottery system, and if people are really gambling that much, how come our education system doesn’t reflect it? You never get a real idea of where that money is going. The budgets are always strapped, but meanwhile people are buying lotto tickets in chunks. I don’t see the money that’s generated to be that much that it helps.

What news outlet would you recommend to someone, to stay a brisk on current events?
Ham radio!

What about NPR,?
NPR, the (New York) Times to a point, although they can be so thick at times. When I was trying to read up on the Enron story, and I’m a fairly bright person, and I can’t follow what the hell they’re trying to tell me. It’s tough. Time and Newsweek do a pretty good attempt at telling you at least something of what’s going on. It’s ridiculous.

I get a lot of my news from the internet, and the Daily Show. How sad is our media when the Daily Show provides the majority of non-biased current events on cable television?
Well, it’s not sad in a sense, because at least it helps young people develop a point of view.

I meant sad, because when you turn to a news channel…
Yeah, the sad thing is about all those channels, is that they’re attempting to make it entertaining, which is not their job. That’s why we’re better at it then they are.

You’re a regular commentator on Daily Show. How come the Daily Show doesn’t have imitators? Usually successful programs have clones, albeit bad ones. Saturday Night Live has Mad TV, late night talk shows have Jimmy Kimmel, etc.
It’s because the other networks still can’t believe that it worked, I think. They’re idiots. Never underestimate the entertainment industries ability to be stupid. There should have been imitators… there should be a lot of things. Even on the goddamn Daily Show, Comedy Central doesn’t allow certain things that could be spin-offs that would work. And that the Daily Show has shown it could work. Tough Crowd is the only spin-off they’ve let go through, and it’s not really even a spin-off at all. Certainly I have approached other networks about putting something satirical on the air, and they show no interest. We tried to talk to NBC, the late night divisions, for something to go on after Saturday Night Live, but they’re not smart enough.

You’re on tour with Dave Attell and Mitch Hedberg. Does the crowd handle both you and Attell well? Your routines are fairly different.
I think the common bond Dave and I have is that we both use language well. The topics are different, but he’s the master of perverse.

Language, eh? Are you censored on the Daily Show?
No. I mean, someone goes through my material, but no. There’s been nothing major censored on either the Daily Show or Conan that I can remember. The only thing that we’re censored on in terms of Tough Crowd is products. There are certain products you can’t mention because they advertise on the show.

Will basic cable television be allowed to swear?
Eventually.

I noticed last night’s Daily Show said “shit”
Did they really?

Yeah, it was in the bit, where they were talking to people that wanted Bush impeached, and one of the guys said he was on a “shit list”. It’s funny how excited we get when we hear a naughty word slip through the censors.
(laughs) I know. I think Viacom are people that don’t seem to be as uptight about it.

Hey, out of the all the content on your DVD, my favorite was, Taxed Beyond Belief.
That was actually a pilot for a series of specials we had, but the show didn’t get off the ground. They had a deal with me to come up with a series. I came up with 500 idea’s, and they, you know, (makes la, la, la noises) ‘We’re were going to do a series of specials, like, going on vacation… there’s a million things you could do and yell about.’ I had thirty minutes on taxes, and nobody has ever done anything on taxes.

Which might be because nobody really knows about taxes.
They would if you would read the goddamn book. That’s what’s so funny about taxes, that nobody can read any of that. I don’t think it’s the forms, it’s the people. I don’t think they’re that intelligent.

So we don’t need taxes on our wages?
Oh yeah! (He yells) we should be paying more! Until the country can get enough money to fund it’s education properly. Our education is in the sewer, and it’s because nobody wants to pay for anything. The state of California doesn’t want to pay for education anymore? What fucking planet do you live on? These people. Where’s the money gonna come from, assholes? What, you’re going to dig for oil somewhere? We gotta pay for shit somehow. We’ve got roads and fucking bridges. They constantly say, “Fuck this, I don’t wanna pay taxes.” Fine, let’s take the marshals off planes, unsecure the airports, have another 9/11. You know? It’s fucking unbelievable. They’re saving twenty cents to lose ten million dollars. It’s constantly within the structure.

Will a politician with a tax plan that is in favor of current or increases in taxes get elected?
No! Nobody wants to say that. Look at the state of Alabama. That shithole, (laughs), they’ve voted to stop taxes… how do they think things will get paid for? I’m a socialist; so all this stuff is nonsense to me. I don’t really like to talk about it, because nobody wants to listen. If you want to raise the quality of life, then you can’t make over 10 million dollars a year. What, you can’t live on 10 million? How tough is it?

So I’m guessing you were 100% against the Bush tax strategy?
What planet is he living on?! We’re broke! Every city is cutting out essential services. Every one! And you’re going to cut taxes AND you can’t give us money to keep those essential services going? And then see that as stimulating the economy? What kind of man are you? They won’t even vote for the 1% of the $600 billion dollars that’s the tax write-off for the rich, to pay for the war in Iraq. It’s beyond belief.

Do you think we’ve been shocked so much by everything, we’re buying ‘it’?
I don’t think we’re buying it, I think that we’re worn out. They’ve worn us out. Turn on the TV, look around. There’s nobody inspirational. There’s nobody that’s inspiring you to move, and you need that! That’s why the leadership is so appalling.

I hear Arnold Schwarzenegger inspires people.
Arnold… (sigh) yeah he inspires people. He inspires them to listen to AC/DC or whoever that fucking idiot is. Rick Dee or whoever.

Dee Snider, from Twisted Sister.
Oh yeah, that’s it, that prick. It’s like, if you’ve got a state and your state made a decision to leave reality and live in the movies. I don’t care what the constitution says, they should remove your state hood.

Did you agree with the recall of Gray Davis?
No! I mean, you guys have the law, but I didn’t think he… you had a year left to go! What difference does it make? And the republicans (think he meant to say democrats) about a bunch of mooks! They couldn’t come up with anyone that could beat him? And then they vote for a republican? It reads like a bad film script.

I think the worst part of the recall, aside from itself, was that people thought voting for Arnold would be good change. That they were shaking their own fist at the government. Did they?
It’s the fuck you factor. There again, you look back and look at the whole thing. Who would have been the person that would have changed the whole thing? Dianne Feinstein. She could have beaten the shit out of Schwarzenegger. Feinstein goes, “I don’t agree with this.” It’s like Democrats will take the high road as if reality doesn’t exist.

Ariana had my vote. Do you think Ariana Huffington would have been able to win, had she stuck around?
No, for God’s sake. I think she’s wonderful, but she’s caught in the middle of being an entertainer and being a real pundit.

Gary Coleman received 13k votes.
Yeah, I saw that. All those people should be rounded up and put into a camp.

Speaking of camping, what are we doing in Iraq?
We don’t know! We didn’t know when we went in, we don’t know now, and we won’t know when we leave.

Do you think we’ll leave?
Eventually.

After we screw things up more?
How much more screwed up can it be, really? It was screwed up before we got there, it’ll be screwed up afterwards. All you have to do is think of Lawrence of Arabia. The end, where they’re all sitting around banging guns on the table. It hasn’t changed since 1910. I don’t understand where Bush thought that were going to give them democracy anyways. He was elected when only 30% of us vote. Who are we to say, to tell someone how democracy is done when only 30% of our population votes.

I’d like to finish up with your thoughts on a few people: Rush Limbaugh:
Fatty fat. How can you take that many painkillers and still be fat?

Al Franken:
Al… wow. Al is… he really screwed up with that Harvard thing. You don’t send out those letters on paper with Harvard letterhead. There again, it’s like Ariana, you’re a comic or you’re a political analysis.

Reverend Al Sharpton:
Unbelievable. Every so often he’s got something smart to say, but when you live in New York City, the fact that he defended Tawana Brawley and made a case for that, it makes you wonder how nuts he really is. Plus, we go from Martin Luther King to Al Sharpton. What’s next? It makes me pine for Charles Barkley.

Michael Moore:
I like Michael. He’s kinda found a way to do both, where he’s, well, untimely, a great satirist.

John Ritter:
Good die young. I think he was overblown. I mean, the thing was, it was a guy on TV. And that’s the thing about TV; everyone thinks they know you.

Osama Bin Laden:
Get him! Just get him. I don’t even care. How do you not catch him? He’s got asthma, one eye, diabetic, married to 19 women… how do you not fucking find him?